Does daylight savings cost more than time?

Q: Does Daylight Saving Time serve any practical purpose or is it a waste of time?

The main purpose of Daylight Saving Time (called “Summer Time” in many places in the world) is to make better use of daylight. We change our clocks during the summer months to move an hour of daylight from the morning to the evening. Countries have different change dates, but the practice is worldwide. Even so, the practice is not without its critics.

The rationale behind the annual switch to DST was that energy use and the demand for electricity for lighting homes is directly related to the times when people go to bed at night and rise in the morning. In the average home, 25 percent of electricity is used for lighting and small appliances, such as TVs and stereos. A good percentage of energy consumed by lighting and appliances occurs in the evening when families are home. By moving the clock ahead one hour, the amount of electricity consumed each day is decreased. We have that American “renaissance” man, Benjamin Franklin, to thank for the bi-annual changing of our clocks.

At the age of 78, as he neared the end of his long tenure as American delegate in Paris, Benjamin Franklin was encouraged by his close friend, Antoine Alexis-Francois Cadet de Vaux, editor of the Journal de Paris, to work on simple yet important problems to occupy his busy mind. As a result of this urging, Franklin penned a series of letters for their mutual amusement.

One such piece took the form of a letter to the Journal de Paris, concerning the economy of lighting in the home. In it, he parodied himself, his love of thrift, and his passion for playing chess until the 3 a.m. and sleeping until noon. Cadet de Vaux published the letter in the Journal on April 26, 1784, under the English title An Economical Project. Franklin began the letter by noting that much discussion had followed the demonstration of a new oil lamp the previous evening, concerning the amount of oil used in relation to the quantity of light produced.

Once again on this night Franklin had eventually gone to bed in the wee hours, but was awakened at six in the morning by a sudden noise. Surprised to find his room filled with light, Franklin at first imagined that the new oil lamp was lighting his room. He soon discovered a different source for the light. Looking out his window, Franklin saw the sun rising above the horizon, its rays pouring through the open shutters.

“I looked at my watch, which goes very well, and found that it was but six o clock; and still thinking it something extraordinary that the sun should rise so early, I looked into the almanac, where I found it to be the hour given for his rising on that day. I looked forward too, and found he was to rise still earlier every day towards the end of June; and that no time during the year he retarded his rising so long as till eight o clock. Your readers, who with me have never seen any sign of sunshine before noon…will be as much astonished as I was, when they hear of his rising so early; and especially when I assure them, that he gives light as soon as he rises. I am convinced of this.”

He began calculating, for the sheer love of economy, the utility of his discovery – the true test of any invention. Franklin demonstrated that Parisians could save “a total of 64,050,000 pounds annually, an immense sum.”

It would be years before Franklin’s theory would become law. On April 30, 1916, Germany and its World War I allies were the first to use DST as a way to conserve coal during wartime. Britain, most of its allies, and many European neutrals soon followed suit. Russia and a few other countries waited until the next year, and the United States adopted it in 1918.

DST: The Greatest Bargain

Take a lesson from cows

By Benjamin Tomkins

In preparation for this article I spoke to people in all kinds of professions about how Daylight Saving Time impacts their business.  The vast majority of them, including teachers, gas station attendants, and shopkeepers, find it mildly annoying to lose an hour of sleep once a year, but are otherwise indifferent.  Oddly enough, the person I figured would care the most, an international airline pilot, actually cared the least.  Apparently, because their job is 24/7, they deal primarily in Coordinated Universal Time (Greenwich Mean Time), and only care about local time as far as they don’t miss their next flight.

Where I did get a stronger opinion was from the guy at Young’s Jersey Dairy.  He has two issues to contend with.  1)  His cows want to be milked at a certain time each day.  DST upsets their schedule, and they get pissy.  2)  He’s running a business that operates into the evening.  More sunlight at the end of the day means more money.  Interesting.  So I asked him how the cow thing worked out for him, and he said it’s actually not that big a deal.  Cows handle DST the same way we humans do.  It’s annoying for 2-3 days until they adjust, and then they’re fine. No, they don’t explode like over-sugared homemade beer bottles in the garage.  The later evening hours, however, were a huge boon to the business.  His description of the increase in profits was “very significant,” and personally that makes me happy.  I love Young’s Jersey Dairy and have since I was a kid.  I recommend you use that extra hour of daylight to go eat a doughnut with your family and feed the goats.  But more to the point, if you understand the dynamics of Young’s Jersey Dairy you really understand the breadth and scope of both sides of the DST argument.

One large pile of studies clearly shows that DST is great for health, profits, and the environment because people are outside longer, they spend more money on mini-golf and ice cream, and they don’t use their lights as much.  Next to that is another large pile of studies that says that it’s clearly bad for health, profits, and the environment because people have their sleep patterns interrupted, businesses lose revenue from people screwing up the time changes, and they use their air conditioners for an extra hour a day.  Now I read a lot of these things, and by the end I was forced to conclude that I have no idea which side wins the statistics war.  Frankly, neither do the statisticians.  At the very least they seem to cancel each other out, and that should lend credence to the “let’s not bother because it’s annoying” argument.  Well, ordinarily I would agree, except that for me, the issue is ultimately not about the numbers.  It’s about understanding what a human being and a cow have in common.

Look at the cow.  Just like humans, the cow is physiologically designed to wake itself up when the sun comes up.  The days don’t start at 7:30 a.m. EST. Instead, they start at sunrise, whenever that may be.  Cows only understand 6:30 a.m. as far as we have trained them to follow the arbitrary construct of our clocks that we have imposed upon their lives.  This is not natural.  Similarly, 5,000 years ago, if the sun rose at what we now call 5:13 a.m., people got up, opened their shops, and got on with their day.  But then, some jerk invented a clock, broke our day into 24 hours, and decided that we should structure things so that we all start working at 9 and get off work around 5.

Now that makes sense from a purely analytical point of view, but at that moment our physiology became sorely outdated.  Now we have to wake up at 7:00 a.m. every day no matter when sunrise is, and our bodies don’t really like this.  So if you really think about it, DST is nothing more than a half-hearted attempt to reconcile the fact that our current system of time doesn’t match our internal wiring any more.  We are obsolete for our environment.  For instance, without DST, the sun would rise in June around 4:30 a.m. every day.  Do you know what you can do in modern society between the hours of 4:30 and 5:30 in the morning?  Nothing.  Those hours are a total loss.  As far as I’m concerned, DST is the greatest bargain we’ve ever struck with ourselves.  We get up an hour early one day a year, and in return we get an extra hour of fun time after work for the next seven months.  Then, if you’re really that wiped out from the festivities, you can sleep in for an extra hour in November. Awesome.

Saving What?

Spring Forward, Fall Asleep

By J.T. Ryder

Daylight Saving Time is almost here, so go hand crack the ol’ Hudson and we’ll motor down to see a moving picture show down at the Gold Theater! Why, maybe Chaplin’s Modern Times will be playing! Wouldn’t that be swell!?

The cool thing about arguing against the continuance of Daylight Saving Time is being able to blame the French. It’s not that I have a particular ax to grind with the French, but one can travel much more comfortably and reach a destination far more quickly when one hops on a bandwagon. And anyway, the French worshipped Jerry Lewis, so that’s enough of a reason for me.

You see, a long time ago, Benjamin Franklin visited France and noted that the French wouldn’t roll out of bed until noon, probably due to being in some sort of wine- and croissant-induced stupor from the night before. Instead of going to bed earlier and waking up earlier, they moved the clock forward one hour…and slept in until
one o’clock.

Well, this prompted Big Ben Franklin to write a fanciful essay, after which the idea was promptly forgotten. While Franklin’s treatise was somewhat satirical in nature, New Zealand entomologist George Vernon Hudson presented a serious paper to the Wellington Philosophical Society about a proposed hour shift to conserve daylight. Independently, in 1907, William Willit, a British builder, brought the idiotic concept back to the fore with his pamphlet simply titled Waste of Daylight. In America, the idea of Daylight Saving Time was not truly entertained until the outbreak of World War I as a means to conserve energy and scale back fuel consumption. At the end of the war, the practice was discarded quicker than Richard Simmons’ clothes in a gym shower room and was not picked up again until the outbreak of World War II.

In school, between smoking cigarettes out behind the cafeteria and wondering if X-Ray specs would allow me to see Wendy Whiteman’s breasts through her sweater, I remember some mumbled explanation about Daylight Saving Time being a boon to farmers, giving them an extra hour a day to perform their farm-like duties. Come to find out, many farmers abhor DST and rally against it every chance they can. There are some who actually reason that they are losing upwards of two hours a day under DST. In fact, their explanations vary. Dairy farmers, even though they have the luxury of an extra hour by the sun, end up milking the cows at the same time because, by the clock, standard commerce won’t begin until 9 a.m. to deliver their goods. Other farmers claim they lose an hour in the morning because dew won’t allow them to tend to their crops until the sun burns it off and then it gets dark earlier, so they lose another hour
in the evening.

In the modern world, with all of our fancy energy efficient light bulbs, high mileage cars and super high tech heating systems, you’d think the subject of DST would be laughed off as a quaint, archaic system that should go the way of the dinosaurs, yet we find many proponents for it. Proponents say there are far fewer car crashes during the evening commute due to more daylight. That may be so, but there is at least an increased chance you may back end a school bus through your dark trek into work. And what of that school bus? Here we are allowing our children to walk to school in the dark or wait at bus stops in the cold, lonely darkness.

Even my kids have asked me, “Why are we getting up when it’s dark outside?”

To which I reply, “I don’t know, something about farmers. Ask me a question
I can answer.”

“Would I be able to see my classmate’s breasts with X-Ray specs?”

“No. They will ruin your eyes, you won’t see anything and she will slap you if she catches you. Now, here’s a flashlight. Go to school.”

My Daylight Saving must have been deposited with Goldman-Sachs, because there doesn’t seem to be a damned thing in that account. In fact, Daylight Saving Time has managed to cost me money on more than one occasion. Imagine my surprise when, one fine day in 1986, I arrived at work 10 minutes early only to find my supervisor waiting for me at the time clock to tell me that I was actually 50 minutes late. Imagine my further surprise when I am fired shortly thereafter when a lengthy discussion erupts between me and the aforementioned supervisor, the salient points being when and where I could pick up my final paycheck.

Had I even made it to work on time, I would have had to jockey with everybody else on the roadways whose bodies were telling them that they should be asleep, some of which were listening to their bodies and careening up onto the sidewalk. Productivity is a huge loss during these DST times of transition for up to seven days while people’s internal clocks (which are naturally set by the sun) fight against man-made clocks. Eventually you will make the adjustment…right in time to fall back.

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